Crochet Crush

I haven’t written specifically about crochet lately which is odd since I seem to have some sort of crochet obsession going on. I’m not sure if it’s the crochet I’m crushing on though or all of the crochet videos I’ve been watching. This started a while back when I bought an Interweave video download on crochet hats with Robyn Chachula. (I wrote about it here)

After that I purchased the “Crochet Sweater Studio” DVD (also by Interweave and also starring Robyn). I had intended to purchase the video download again but accidentally put the wrong thing in my basket and then found out I couldn’t cancel the order-which is annoying as all get out, but anyway…

According to the product description this video will teach you the following things:

1) The basics for designing with or without a pattern

2) Various construction methods for designing and crocheting garments

3) How to read a pattern or chart and adjust or modify various types of construction methods to get the right shape and size

4) How to customize your garments with a variety of necklines, armhole shaping, motifs etc…

5) Stress-free fixes to crochet problems

Again, I might be a little biased because I’m a fan of Robyn’s but I think she accomplishes all of this and, what’s more, she breaks everything down so it’s really easy to understand. If you are an advanced crocheter, you might find this video redundant. For most of us though, I think this is a good investment. I do suggest the download version if you can get it as it’s less expensive to begin with,  doesn’t require postage and it’s delivered within a few minutes. For those of us with the patience of a jumping bean, that’s key. How we ever managed before the digital age I’ll never know.

I liked these videos and I think Interweave does a nice job with them, but there are some really good free options out there too. For example, the other day I came across this bag pattern over on Ravelry:

Solid Granny Square Bottom Bag Crochet Tutorial by bobwilson123

 

This pattern, by “bobwilson123”, is actually a YouTube tutorial by the designer Clare. This lovely woman has an entire YouTube channel containing more than 500 free crochet video tutorials. I watched the video for this bag and one for the granny square needed to start the bag and then got off on a tangent and I don’t know how many I ended up watching. A lot. Most of her tutorials seem to run about 20 minutes, give or take a few. Clare is funny, friendly, chatty, comfortable and knowledgeable. She also does a really good job of pointing out small details that often get lost in videos. (i.e. places where you are likely to accidentally add or delete stitches). While Clare has a TON of videos, if she doesn’t have what you’re looking for, you can always go over to her fan group on Ravelry and suggest a topic!  I really enjoyed these videos and Clare has an adorable Aussie accent that makes everything seem so much more fun (Americans are suckers for a good accent). I confess, I had to do a report on the Australian echidna in 7th grade and I’ve been a big fan of anything Australian ever since. Personal biases aside, if you’re looking for good straightforward crochet teaching, bobwilson123 is your girl.

It’s the Easter Echidna!

Long-beaked Echidna

Long-beaked Echidna

Re-hash

It used to be that I would cast on for a project, work it through, like it or dislike it and move on but, these days,  it seems no matter what I’m working on I will have to do it more than once. It’s not a question of getting it “perfect” just of getting it “right”.

Such is the case with my “Sylvine”. I cast on for this the other day with Rowan’s “creative focus worsted” in hot pink. I got about three inches past the armhole, tried it on and decided the cardigan needed to be made smaller or my bust needed to be made larger. Time, money and surgery being what they are I decided to pull the sweater out and redo it in a size down (medium) and in a different yarn.

The designer states this sweater is intended to be fitted but I doubted her. I felt that “fitted” would just accentuate my non-bust curves. My mistake. The lace pattern doesn’t stretch out enough when it’s loose and ends up looking frowsy and sad. Can I get a “rippit”?

I have now cast-on a new Sylvine, a size medium in the old purple “Princess” yarn (previously the ill-fated “Blake” cardi) that has been teasing me for the last two months. This is the second incarnation for this yarn (which I love, BTW) and my second time with the “Sylvaine” pattern (which I’m also pretty much in love with). So I’m hopeful, if not all out confident, that this will work.

That beautiful Rowan yarn, the hot pink stuff I can’t get enough of, has now been started in three different patterns. First was “Rhinia“, the pattern for which the yarn was purchased, then “Sylvaine” (see above) with slightly better success. After much experimentation, I’ve come to the conclusion that this yarn looks better with lace than with cables and it wants to be a pullover not a cardigan. It has now been cast on for “Falling Feathers” by Joanne Scrace. This is a basic, raglan, top-down sweater with some delightful lace details along the raglan lines. So far so good but since this is my first go at this pattern, I’m only cautiously optimistic.

I have other yarns in my stash that have been knit and frogged many times, just waiting for the perfect pattern to bring out their particular beauty. While I sometimes find this system frustrating I think I’m generally happier with my knitting for taking the time to do it and redo it as often as necessary. I just have to remind myself once in a while that knitting “is a journey not a destination”

Command Performance Knitting

Scully mitts for Missy

Scully mitts for BFF

My BFF has been asking me forever to knit her an “Irish” sweater, one like she had back in college when she was just a “wee lass”. Or she would like a plain black pullover with maybe some cables in it. She’s probably not getting either one. It’s not that I don’t want to knit for her, she is, in fact, the recipient of most of my knitted gifts. I’ve made her mittens, fingerless mitts, socks, hats, scarves, shawls and, yes, even sweaters. The thing is I’m not so keen on being told what to do. I like the freedom of following my knitish muse wherever she may wander and, usually, that isn’t where the people in my life want me to go (knit-wise anyway).

Lacy leg-warmers for Missy

Lacy leg-warmers for BFF

Hubbs would also love a hand-knit sweater. I did make him one once which he never wore. In his defense, I have to admit the colors were hideous and the fit left a lot to be desired but, if he wanted another one, he really should have worn it, maybe around the house or something. I also made him an awesome pair of felted slippers which were subsequently blamed for a frightful tumble down a flight of stairs followed by a trip to the ER and a diagnoses of two broken ribs. Knitting for Hubbs seems like it might be a bore to me and a danger to him.

My sister once asked me to knit her a cute little drawstring bag with fish on it. It was pretty darn cute, I’ll admit, and I even bought the kit to make it, but, alas, the poor thing never made it to the cast-on stage. Although my sister has also been a  primary benefactor of my knitish obsession. I’ve made her a couple of sweaters, many socks, some scarves and countless felted slippers for her three kids but…..nothing that she ever asked for.

Christmas Cardi for MA

Christmas Cardi for Stepmom

I now knit primarily for myself. I had come to accept the fact that I’m just a selfish knitter, but then I realized,  I’m actually not that selfish. It’s just that I’m the only person I know who wants to own the things I want to knit. Everyone else, it seems, would like something I have no interest in knitting, at least not right now.

Someday I will probably want to make an “Irish” sweater but, by then, I’m sure my BFF will have moved on to something else that I have no interest in knitting. In the meantime, I will continue to knit  for my friends and family just not “by request”. They will have to suffer through with the knitted items I most wish to knit regardless of their personal preferences.

Grandmom is currently in line for a pair of crocheted slippers but I’m pretty sure she’d rather have a pair of mittens or a new scarf just now.

MAB's b-day bag

Reading unraveled

 

EnglandEngland

I once started reading a book by Julian Barnes called “England, England” which I put down about half-way through. Unusual for me, since I rarely put down an unfinished book, unfinished sweater , or an unfinished sandwich. I like things to have a beginning a middle and, most importantly, an end. I love the beginning of a book or a sweater. It’s new and inspiring and, if it holds my interest for the first few pages or rows I’m usually hooked to the end. I have to see it through.  The middle is almost overlooked, it’s the stockinette body of a lace front cardigan, but it is also substance, the reason for the rest of it.  The end is bittersweet. I want to finish and have a complete story or a new cardigan but, by the time I get to the point where I have the end in sight I’ve come to love the characters (and the yarns) I’m working with, even the difficult ones. I sort-of hate to see them go.

Occasionally, I’ll start a new knit project, a sweater or even something smaller, and I’ll just get it cast on when I realize it’s not what I expected or my mood has changed and I’d rather do something else but these revelations happen pretty quickly. With books, it’s the same. I might be drawn in by a flashy cover or a good review but if I’m not interested in the content I’ll usually know within the first couple of pages. That wasn’t the case with “England, England”. I was interested from the get-go. And I happen to really like this author too, so I’m not sure why I put the book aside but, like a WIP that I’d really like to wear, I know I had every intention of going back to it.  I didn’t.  The book got lost in the shuffle of moving some time ago but I’m sure it’s still around here somewhere. I just can’t find it.

I could go get another copy or go to the library and check it out but the truth is I’m not sure I want to finish it now. I just want it finished, if you see what I mean.

Unlike a piece of knitting that’s not keeping my interest, I can’t unravel a half-read book. If I could I most certainly would because now I have a half-book floating around in my head with no ending.

When I start a knitting project I always start with the best of intentions but I don’t always finish and, yet , I have no (that’s right zero) UFO’s in my house. I have projects I am currently working on and I have yarn (a.k.a. unraveled projects). This is, no doubt, how I ended up with a basement-sized stash but, space constraints aside, it’s nice to have something that’s un-do-able. There is something about the very temporal nature of knitting that makes it somehow comforting. It means there are no mistakes in knitting. There is knitting and there is unraveling but no mistakes. Mistakes are only lessons and anyway, they can be undone (unless they’re felted,that might be a mistake or it might be a potholder).

I’ve had the displeasure of encountering many reading mistakes. Not Julian Barnes, of course. I was thinking more along the lines of grocery store magazine racks. I avoid these like the plague usually  but, sometimes the flashy covers will catch my eye and then before you know it I’ve stuck something into my head that will never go away. It’s non-ravelable.

Now that I think of it though, one could make the argument that knitting is also non-ravelable, after all who doesn’t remember their first hand-knit sweater?

DSCN6629

March: In like a Lion…

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“Alluvium” is finished just in time for the first day of spring. I live in the mid-west so I know better than to assume I’ll be having an actual spring. It will be like always: mostly winter until around May first then two weeks of spring before we plunge headlong into summer’s heat. So please forgive me if my “spring” knits look a lot like my “winter” knits.

DSCN6736

Alluvium” (Jennifer Dassau) Is a side-to-side constructed cardigan with “after-thought” sleeves in a soft, bulky weight yarn. I don’t often use bulky yarns (I have enough bulk of my own, thank you) but, since this was a more drapey, wrap-like, blanket cardigan, I felt like it could work and, anyway, in the cold dreary grey of the last few weeks I wanted something really cozy and squishy so only a soft bulky yarn would do. The pattern is well written, easy to remember, fast to make and, due to the larger gauge, even the stockinette part didn’t get boring, as it sometimes (read: almost always) does.

As I mentioned in a previous post,the yarn is  “Ariosa” from Classic Elite yarns and I love it. Like I said before, I don’t use a lot of bulky weight yarns but, when I do, I’ll be looking for more of this. It’s super soft with no itch-factor that I can detect and gives good stitch definition. It is almost like a roving in construction so there is a little splittyness but it’s not bad. This yarn has a lot of loft to it in the ball but becomes much more drapey with (wet) blocking. I was happy about that aspect, as I wanted a drapey fabric but something to consider if you’re looking for more structure.

DSCN6750

I was really thinking that “Alluvium” would be my last heavy knit for the season but today the weatherman is calling for more snow and (another) drop in temps so, while I’m a bit tired of the cold (especially the blasted wind!) I’ll take this opportunity to work on one more wooly cardigan. I have Anna Sudo’s  Sylvine cardigan on the needles right now and I’m really enjoying it. The pattern is well written and easy to follow. This is a top-down, round-yoke cardigan in worsted weight wool with the increases included in the fun lace pattern. I’m using the Rowan “Creative Focus Worsted” that I originally purchased for my ill-fated “contiguous sleeves” sweater and it’s really pretty awesome. Not as soft as the Ariosa and with a small itch-factor but it gets great stitch definition, the lace pattern really pops and you just can’t beat this color! (The pics look a bit red but it’s really more fuchsia.)

DSCN6747

In other news, I did “upcycle” an old sweater last week (I told you I would). I didn’t pick one of my older hand knits though. Instead, I found one of the Hubbs’ old thrift sweaters, a nice soft combo of lambswool and acrylic, probably an aran or bulky weight. I like the mottled grey color and the soft feel of it and, since the Hubbs rarely wears sweaters, I doubt he’ll notice it’s missing.  I have no idea what I’ll do with the yarn but, for my first time frogging a commercially made sweater,  I’m pretty happy with it. It will probably be turned into (yet another) scarf for mom or my BFF. Either way it’s better than falling on my head every time I open the spare-room closet.

                                      Out like a…

very well behaved hound dog!

very well-behaved hound dog!

Gag, gag, gag me with a spoon

I met a woman recently who claimed she didn’t like Ravelry because she felt the people weren’t “serious” knitters. “Hmmmmm” I thought, “what is a serious knitter?” and, more importantly, “how serious does one need to be about knitting?”

I’m not above the off-hand gag or prank. I once knitted a set of “bacon and eggs” for a friend of mine. It was kind of cute and slightly amusing and I was glowing with pride as my friends and co-workers “oooed” and “ahhed” over my handiwork. (Never mind that I had worn any number of hand knitted items around these people before with nary a comment.) But, truth be told, as soon as I’d figured out how to make my bacon-and-eggs and taken the requisite photo of them, my next thought was “so now what?”.  This was a purely one-off gag that was useful for using up some random bits of yarn and providing a modicum of amusement but, I’m confident, it was lost to the garbage man long ago.

Right now I can log on to Ravelry and find any number of knitted or crocheted “gags”: mustaches, beards, cat headdresses, faux poop (yep, POOP) and of course “willie” warmers. None of these things is particularly useful and IMO, not even very funny, but then neither was “bacon and eggs”. I imagine these are the things, along with chap-stick and apple cozies, that the woman I met was referring to when she claimed the people on Ravelry weren’t “serious” knitters. And she may be right. Maybe they aren’t “serious” knitters but who are we to judge?

Knitting, to me, is like reading. I read mysteries for entertainment and history books for edification and cookbooks because I have no idea how to cook without them and the occasional “People” magazine because I can. Likewise my knitting sometimes teaches me a new technique, sometimes it provides an item I need and sometimes (ok almost always) it provides pleasure. Pure, simple, selfish pleasure. But in both knitting and reading, I’m a firm believer that doing it at all is far better than not.

For today I’ll leave you with a real gag. If you’re old enough to remember the 80’s this will undoubtedly make you-like-totally-laugh-like-I’m sure. If you’re too young to remember the 80’s, just pretend one of these girls is your mom and be prepared to ROTFLMAO.

TOTALLY BITCHIN’

…..and remember, the world is a pretty serious place that could do with a good gag now and then, even if you have to knit it.

cables uncrossed

The old adage that a woman will eventually turn into her mother is coming true for me. Not , necessarily, a bad thing. My mom’s pretty cool, as mothers go. My current cardigan project has thrown this likeness into stark relief.

The first time my mom came to visit after the Hubbs and I got married she wanted to set up the coffee maker to start coffee before she got up. Our coffee maker had that capability but, since it required some sort of programming or setting a clock or whatever we never used it. Hubbs and I would just start the thing ourselves when we got up. We have dogs to feed so the coffee is always ready by the time we’re finished with that anyway.

Not my mom. Presented with an un-programmed, programmable coffee pot she was determined to set it up to do her biding. I know my mom. I know she will stay up all night figuring this thing out if that’s what it takes, so I went to bed.

Hubbs, on the other hand, is bred of pure southern gentility and just could not leave my mother alone in the kitchen to fiddle with the coffee pot so he stayed up with her. For hours.

I can’t remember how the coffee maker incident ended but the whole thing came back to me the other day when I was presented with this:

DSCN6703

This is a picture of the cardigan I’m just finishing up and, wouldn’t you know it, there on the left side is a mis-crossed cable. I didn’t notice this mistake until I was about to bind off the opposite end. If I was a perfectionist I would rip the whole thing out and do it over. I’m not, however, a perfectionist. I am a pragmatist  but if a problem is fixable I must try to fix it.

I went to my LYS and the ladies had some good suggestions including creating a stitch at the back which would sort of mimic the cable look and covering that cable with a pin or button or some other distraction. These are perfectly good suggestions and, if I weren’t my mother’s daughter, I’d use one of them. But I am my mother’s daughter so I decided to go with the one idea the LYS ladies didn’t even mention. In fact, they encouraged me not to try it.

I can just snip a thread in the crossed row, pull out the 12 cable stitches, re-attache a new piece of yarn, re-knit them in the proper order and then kitchner  (graft) the hole shut right?

Right, well it isn’t as if I haven’t learned anything in the last 48 years, so I worked up a swatch to test my theory before taking scissors to my sweater.

crossed the wrong way

crossed the wrong way

snip the crossed row

snip the crossed row

pullout the cabled stitches, place on needles and re-knit properly

pullout the cabled stitches, place on needles and re-knit properly

kitchner the hole back together

kitchner the hole back together

 

There you have it. Aside from my rather rookie looking attempt at kitchner, it works perfectly fine. The key is to kitchner it back together properly. My stitches were twisted here but, being so anxious to see how my “fix” turned out I chose to not bother with switching them back into proper positioning. Well, this wasn’t a kitchner stitch tutorial and I told you I’m not a perfectionist.

The cable thing, The snip- unknit- reknit thing: totally works. Now off to make some coffee and have a chat with mom.

two stitches many choices

DSCN6719

In knitting, as in life, it’s easy to become complacent. You know that all of knitting is knit and purl. You can twist the stitches and change the colors of the stitches and turn the stitches sideways but, ultimately you’re dealing with two stitches. Your choice is to keep doing those two stitches the same way, over and over. or to do something differently.

I have wanted to try the contiguous sleeve method ever since I first saw it about two years ago. True enough, I was a bit intimidated, but I was also pretty sure learning this new method would be far more trouble than it was worth. I mean, why go to the trouble of figuring this out when the non-contiguous set-in sleeve works perfectly fine? What’s the point? Will it result in a different sweater in the end? Who will notice? Why do I care? The list of jaded “who cares?” questions is endless. And that, my friends, is complacency.

Today I am casting on for a new cardigan, the Rhinia cardigan(with contiguous sleeves!) by Astrid Schramm:

For which I have purchased some quite delicious hot pink creative focus worsted yarn by Rowan (that’s it pictured up top). I’m printing out all fourteen pages of my pattern and I’m going to take some time and learn something new. Because it’s not important what you do with the stitches so much as what you get out of them in the end. I don’t mean the finished product, necessarily but what you get out of them in a deeper sense. Did they challenge you? Did they teach you something new? Or did you, this time, get them right? Life is like this. It’s really the same thing every day. The challenge is to change your perspective to allow those same days to give you something new each time.

Happy Wednesday

Happy Wednesday

Clubland

Yarn candy

                                                                              yarn candy

There was a time, dear friends, when “clubbing” meant (to me at least) staying out way too late dancing and drinking and stumbling home at all odd hours. Ahhh what a difference a couple of decades can make.  Now when I think of clubs I think of sock yarns arriving at my door on a regular basis. I’m not actually a big sock knitter, I knit socks on occasion, just not regularly. I mostly knit sweaters and sometimes I knit them out of sock yarn but there is still no reason for me to be involved in a “sock-yarn-club”. Especially since the club I currently belong to is also a mini-skein club. The only sweater I can make out of mini-sock-yarn-skeins is either A) sized for a Barbie doll or B) a color abomination the likes of which I have learned not to wear (yes, I have tried it. It wasn’t pretty or even “funky” except in a bad way.)

So why am I participating in this sock-yarn-club thingie? Well, to be fair, I really wanted to get into this designers other yarn club called “When Granny Weatherwax knits socks”. I wanted to be in that group because I know Granny Weatherwax! I would be in on the laugh! Never mind that I would still  be stuck with a whole lot of sock yarn for a girl that doesn’t really knit socks! To my dismay the “Granny Weatherwax”club was sold out and so were all her other “club” memberships, all but one, that is: mini-skeins. 7 of them a month. And it’s been going on for over a year now.

I have tried to use these little gems for many other things, primarily crocheted motifs and such, with some degree of success. The real problem here isn’t the yarn or finding the right project or even my ability. The problem is that I like them as “skeins”. I like to look at my (ever-increasing) pile of multi-colored splendor. I  wound several of them into tiny little sock-yarn-center-pull-balls and put them in a little bowl on my dining room table and they are adorable!!  (Do not say “hexipuff” to me! I am not making hexipuffs no matter how cute I think they are!)

That, however, is the extent of it, And this is where the second problem comes in: I have no desire whatsoever to “do” anything with them. None.

Did I get sidetracked? I was supposed to tell you why I joined this club? Hmmmm, I think it’s a bit like “clubbing” was back in the day when it meant hanging out in smoky bars and dance clubs. I didn’t really want to be there but I didn’t want to miss anything either. I showed up for the simple reason that I didn’t want to “not” show up. Sock-yarn clubs are in abundance over on Ravelry and just about every indie yarn designer has one going. I feel like there must be something there that I will eventually wish I had been a part of .

Twenty years ago I wasn’t self-aware or secure enough to admit that I’d rather be at home on my couch watching horror movies and eating pizza with my BFF than out in a sweaty club with people I didn’t particularly like, trying way too hard to have a good time. But time and experience have served me well. I am now perfectly comfortable admitting that I do not want random sock yarn sitting around my house no matter how appealing it is and I don’t want to try that hard to find a use for it.

I do, however,  have a good friend who loves sock yarn, loves knitting socks, is well on her way to completing a hexipuff blanket, has better eyesight than I do and, apparently, more patience as well. I think I’ll pack up my 70 some-odd mini skeins and send them to her. Then I’ll go cancel my subscription to the “club” and get back to the beautiful, cable-y, bulky, cardigan that I will most definitely have a use for, well, for a least a month or so.

For now I’ll leave you with this:

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   Susie, trying to be good. It’s hard for her, poor thing.

Easy like Sunday morning

Sunday mornings and Friday nights, at my house, are times of great ease: pizza and a movie on Friday nights , the local flea market and brunch on Sunday mornings. Life is good at these times, predictable and worry free.

Most of the time I like my knitting to be a challenge. Not a huge, unconquerable challenge, mind you, but an opportunity to learn something new or perfect a skill.  I like my knitting to bend my mind a little bit and take me someplace I’ve never been (that’s a lot to ask from some string and sticks, I know). But lately I’ve felt the need for an easy knit. Something that could move along smoothly and provide a sense of accomplishment in a relatively short period of time. Something safe and predictable but still fun and if, in the end, the finished item should also garner a  lot of “Ooo’s and Ahhh’s”, so much the better.

With this in mind I turned to a recently acquired pile (10 skeins) of “Ariosa”  (Classic Elite yarns), purchased with a particular, chunky little gilet in mind. (Gilet: noun, sleeveless vest or sweater, from french meaning “waistcoat”).   Upon closer inspection of the pattern (and after said yarn was purchased, mind you) I noticed that the cables on this particular garment looked a bit odd. They caused a funky fit on the bottom half of most of the projects I could see clearly (via Ravelry FO’s).  I decided I wasn’t going that route again. I’ve done it a million times. Something looks awesome in a professional photo and then, after completion you realize the poor thing never had a chance. The original had clearly been manipulated within an inch of its life to look good in a photo and, really? If it takes that kind of manipulation on a professional model what chance have I got? No, not this time.

I released a huge sigh of disappointment, wallowed in a pool of yarn and frustration for a moment, considered returning the yarn all-together, cursed the designer’s name several times and then….

I followed Maggie Righetti’s advice and listened to my  yarn. I asked the beautiful Ariosa “what would you like to be?” (AKA swatching). Turns out this yarn looks absolutely divine in good ol stockinette stitch at about 3 stitches to the inch (which is, in fact, what is recommended on the ball band). It’s lofty and super soft and still gets good stitch definition. The cable pattern I was originally going for would have worked well if it hadn’t been only at the bottom of the garment where it sucked in all the drape.

I pondered. I trolled Ravelry. I slept on it a night or two. And then…

I found this :

This beautiful blanket of a cardigan is called Alluvium and was designed by Jennifer Dassau (the Knitting Vortex). Not only is this an easy knit, it’s an easy wear as well! It’s relatively quick to knit, and, since we’re already into the second week of March, that’s key, plus my gauge is spot on. This was love at first sight.

I am now about 2/3 of the way through this and, although I had a momentary freak-out when I thought I was going to run out of yarn, it’s going remarkably well . I’m having a hard time putting it down long enough to write this, in fact.  The pattern is pretty simple, the cabling is easy enough and, after the set-up, the whole thing is blissfully mindless and satisfying. The arms are created via the after-thought method which I rather like. It looks like a ton of straight-on stockinette but at this gauge it goes really quickly and the cables and ribbing keep you on your toes just enough. The yarn is delicious. I wasn’t sure about it at first but the ladies over at my LYS highly recommended it and they could not have been more right.

So that (along with the endless “Night and Day” scarf) is what I have on the needles this week. My trolling is now reserved for a new crochet project…..there is always trolling.